I've read two things recently which have touched me. One was The Wind in the Willows, that delightful children's classic, with Ratty and Moley and Toad of Toad Hall. It is filled with many cosy scenes centered around tea time, with scones and tea sandwiches and a blazing fire or lovely picnics on the gentle river, or in a secret forest glade. The other was an article in the NY Times Magazine which ended with the author's hope that his two daughter's search for secret places would leave enough room for him to join them, sometimes.
When I was a child, I had 2 secret places, one in our yard, where a group of trees had branches to the ground and I had a little house, with dishes and tea things and some toys. The other was way up a tree over the creek, (or crick, as we farmers said). The main trunk was slanted so my dog would come up too, and there were wide branches to sit on for reading and a hole to stash treasures in. They were wonderful places to play pretend, to dream, to think, just to be.
I don't have secret places anymore, I don't really need them, but I remember them with great fondness. Today if I had one, I would stock it with a good tea kettle, my best teas, some books and my best friend, Himself. Actually, I guess I do have one, my living room in winter and my back porch in summer, where we can drink tea and dream away the afternoons, when our work is done. Afternoon tea draws us together, gives us a quiet, pleasant ritual and deepens our love, as we share our lives.
Today's comes with an old tea - 11 years old to be exact, a Tie Guan Yin I got at World Tea East. It comes in a small vacuum packed package, but only has Chinese writing on it, so I can't even tell you who it is from. It is, however, billed a Famous tea of China and indeed, it is one that is always on the top 10 list of great teas. The tea is tightly wrapped in itself, tiny green balls with little tails. I brew it with water about 195 - just as the water is moving into big bubbles, but before it gets quiet and bursts into boiling. I rinse it quickly and then brew it for 2 minutes. Oh, the aroma that is given off! So sweet, so floral, it is just wonderful. The flavor is also superb, a mix of orchid and somehow a meatiness, but without a meat flavor. A heartiness perhaps? The second wash for another thirty seconds, is more delicate overall, but the wonderful sweet flowery-ness is still there, along with a whiff of roast, earth and a bit of hyacinth. This is as far as I got today, but I have more and next time, I am going to see how far I can push it.